Not so fast: just what did Archbishop Burke say?

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles ) | Sep 06, 2004

It's true; Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis has conceded that under some circumstances a Catholic could vote for a pro-abortion candidate without being guilty of grave sin.

But what are those circumstances? The archbishop said:

...a Catholic who personally opposes abortion rights, votes for a candidate who supports abortion rights "for what are called proportionate reasons," he said....

"The sticking point is this - and this is the hard part," said Burke. "What is a proportionate reason to justify favoring the taking of an innocent, defenseless human life? And I just leave that to you as a question. That's the question that has to be answered in your conscience. What is the proportionate reason?"

So there it is: If you can find another political issue that outweighs the deliberate murder of innocent children, you can justify voting for a pro-abortion candidate.

And if you can find a political cause that justifies accepting the willful slaughter of children, you have something in common with the butchers of Beslan.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: - Sep. 08, 2004 6:13 AM ET USA

    "So there it is: If you can find another political issue that outweighs the deliberate murder of innocent children, you can justify voting for a pro-abortion candidate." Does the murder of innocent children in Iraq count? Talk about "cafeteria Catholics"!

  • Posted by: Eusebuis1 - Sep. 07, 2004 7:51 PM ET USA

    It's amazing (yeah!) that the New York Times and other "conservative" media have reported exactly what Archbishop Raymond Burke is quoted as saying. Their headlines tell it all -- Catholics can vote for a pro-abortion candidate. (I was just kidding about how the Times and other secular media quoted Archbishop Burke.) Just search Google News to see how many papers have reported on the interview.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 07, 2004 7:36 PM ET USA

    I disagree. Within a wide spectrum of intellectual brilliance and sophistication, every Catholic nevertheless must assume responsibility for making properly-informed choices freely. Burke has already indicated HIS position. His "clarification" merely documents the fitting process of reasoning.

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Sep. 07, 2004 11:15 AM ET USA

    Is this plain language Catholic teaching or a graduate seminar on scholastic rhetoric? To ask the question "That's the question that has to be answered in your conscience. What is the proportionate reason?" is to say "The answer is there in your conscience -- Now go and look for it." There has not been, not now, nor will there ever be a proportionate reason to take innocent, defenseless human life. Suggesting in this quasi-academic way is a poor way to teach.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 07, 2004 9:33 AM ET USA

    Archb. Burke is distinguishing moral absolutes from non-. E.g. the ban on murder is a moral absolute; that on capital punishment is not. Imagine you have a choice between two politicians who have often voted against pro-life bills. You know that the Republican is unlikely to veto Republican judges, so you vote for him. You have voted for a pro-abortion politician but not because he is pro-abortion. If we reject Archb. Burke's distinction, this vote would be immoral.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 07, 2004 1:31 AM ET USA

    For the sake of an academically correct argument, the Archbishop has managed to add to the confusion of Catholics throughout the country. The point is, the archbishop could easily remove "the sticking point" by making it perfectly clear there is no "proportionate" reason that could justify giving political power to someone who is bound and determined to use it to keep abortion legal.

  • Posted by: lrslattery - Sep. 06, 2004 10:49 PM ET USA

    It is a grave disservice to suggest that Ab. Burke is waffling. As Phil states, there are really are no proportionate reasons in the current case that would permit one to vote for a pro-abort POL. The case would be different if the other candidate (B) also supported abortion as well as euthanasia and embyonic stem cell research while the first supported only abortion. That's 3 evils (B) to Candidate A's 1, a proportionate reason to limit the damage that would be done by B.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 06, 2004 7:43 PM ET USA

    The Archbishop seems to have accomplished little other than to muddle and confuse the issue. The unChristian "Catholics" will now find their excuse to vote for the permissive-on-abortion candidates. They will continue their irrational chant: "Catholic is Democrat, and Democrat is Catholic." Meanwhile, the "father of lies" rolls over in delight !

  • Posted by: - Sep. 06, 2004 5:35 PM ET USA

    What is a proportionate political reason for voting for champions of abortion? That is easy to answer and I know quite a few people who actually believe this. Because the candidate is a Democrat, since "right or wrong, I am a Democrat!" I am sick and tired of these people who claim to be Catholics yet worship a god other than the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who forbids 'murder.' Archbishop Burke has just waffled into the same weak leadership(?) that most of the bishops of this country exhibit. Jashu